Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dollar Store Divas

Do you believe that there is a legitimate excuse for a large store such as a Wal-Mart or Toys R’ Us to not carry several ethnically different dolls?  -- Baby Beatriz Doll Project survey

No, and the fact that many of them don’t infuriates me.  What infuriates me even more is chain stores that position themselves in black communities but don’t carry black dolls.  Dollar Tree in the Atlanta area is especially bad about this.  Six or seven years ago in New Orleans I could find black dolls in the Dollar Tree stores there, but I haven’t seen any in Atlanta in almost five years. 

In 2006 I found a cache of black dolls at a Dollar Tree in Canton, GA.  Ironically, Canton is a suburb northwest of Atlanta with a relatively small African American population.  This is what the doll originally looked like:

Neither the arms nor the legs could bend, but the dolls could twist and turn at the waist.   Unfortunately the hip joints break easily so now I have almost enough dismembered legs to shoot a Nokia N8 Pink commercial! 

Each doll came dressed in an evening gown.  I was impressed with the designers’ imaginative solutions to dressing the dolls on the cheap.  Each doll came with a wrap, a pair of pumps, a crown, and a necklace. 

Since the necklaces were glued on, a lot of them broke when I tried to pry them loose.  The crowns were glued on as well but since I planned to remove all the hair anyway, I didn’t mind.  I scooped up over a dozen of these dolls to use as extras in crowd scenes and was very pleased that each one also came with a stand.

While the quality of the face screening varied greatly from doll to doll, I liked the doll’s features.  Here is one that I recently upgraded to an articulated Mattel body:

This young lady now has a regular contract and will appear in future videos.  Last night some of her hopeful sisters staged a benefit concert.
A new trio, the Dollar Store Divas, opened the show. 

The Lady in Blue

and the Lady in Purple

wore matching satin sheaths


with criss-cross ribbons defining the bodice.

They sang back up for the Lady in Green

who wore sparkling white net over green satin.

A veteran performer, the Lady in Black crooned a contemplative lullaby

as simple and elegant as her classic triple strand of pearls.

The Lady in Red brought her powerful presence

and passion to the stage,

while the Lady in Silver

brought down the house with her radiance and grace.

Ladies like these should be available everywhere in a rainbow of complexions.

À Bientôt


  1. You're right, it is never acceptable for a store not to carry black dolls, especially when the clientele is predominantly black. Will the struggle ever end?

    I have seen similar dolls (both black and white) at Family Dollar; they range in price from $3 to $5. I'm not sure if Dollar General or Dollar Tree stocks these. I'll check the next time I visit.


  2. Hi!
    I'm so glad I can finally post to your blog! I have this doll too. I purchase her from dollar tree. I love your wigs on her. I have been working on the eyebrows. Something about them doesn't work for me. I love her complexion. I will darken her lip color. I think I need to upgrade her body too.
    There is no reason not to carry black dolls in black communities. If we are OK with purchasing other doll than black dolls, then they will carry what is easiest.
    I have never seen white parents in white neighborhoods buy a black doll just because a white doll is not available. When they buy a non white doll it is because they planned to purchase a non white doll. They will leave the store without a doll, even during the Xmas season, if it is not what they wanted. I have seen a little white girl come out of the Barbie section with Steve, only to see him put back or substituted for another doll.
    I believe that the S.I.S. dolls are a response to African American parent complaining about the lack of black dolls shipped in Barbie doll shipment boxes. (1 or 2 Artsy in a box of 12 Fashionistas) Stores in black neighborhood can order the S.I.S. dolls for their stores.

  3. Darkening the lip color is something that I would immediately do if I purchased one of these dolls.


  4. Dear Ms. Leo and Debbie,

    Thanks for your spirited responses. There is a Family Dollar store one block from my house in a predominantly African American neighborhood, but I don't remember seeing any black dolls the last time I was in there. Here in Atlanta there is a chain called Maxway (kind of like Roses or Woolworth's) that is located in black communities. We have one in the mall a few blocks from my house. They do carry black dolls starting at about $3. They also get remaindered black Barbies but in general, the quality of these dolls is much lower than it was before the recession.

    And yes, I do need to do a make-up makeover for my Dollar Store Divas. They all look like they've been standing in the winter wind with no chapstick!

  5. LOL! Pink lips on dark skinned dolls is one of my personal pet peeves.


  6. Love your Dollar Tree Divas. They are jammin'. I can't say that I have ever seen this doll in the store. She's very pretty and looks fabulous in your wigs. But I must admit I never looked for dolls at the Dollar Tree. I was too busy at the Goodwill spending my $1.01 for articulated dolls. My last great doll find was articulated Brandy doll for $2.02. By the way, I still have those 3 dolls for you. Just let me know how to get them to you.